As preppers, we pride ourselves on being ready for any emergency situation which might arise.
More than anything, this means having the supplies and gear to deal with the situation and provide our families with the basic necessities of life, even if nobody else has them. But what would happen if we suddenly found ourselves in the situation of being faced with a potential disaster and we didn’t have any of our preps around?
Think that can’t happen? It just happened to me. You don’t need to know the details of how, because that’s immaterial to today’s discussion. But here are a few examples of how any of us could end up in this situation:
- Traveling out of town when a hurricane strikes
- An earthquake or wildfire destroys our home
- We are unable to make our way home for some reason
- We are forced to leave our home, either due to criminal invasion or even something as mundane as a divorce, coupled with a restraining order
I’m sure there are other possibilities, but these are enough for now. In any of these cases, the only survival gear that you would have available to you is your bug out bag, everyday carry bag or survival kit. In addition, it’s safe to say that you’d have the clothes on your back, the credit or debit cards in your wallet and the survival knowledge you’ve stored up in your head.
With only that to work with, what do you do? How can you prepare to survive a disaster with minimal time and minimal resources? For the sake of argument, let’s say that you’re in the path of a hurricane and all the planes are grounded.
Knowledge Trumps Gear
In a situation like I am describing, you really can’t count on your survival gear and stockpile of supplies, other than what you manage to take with you. Some situations might allow you to grab a bug out bag or you might have an EDC bag with you. But if you are traveling, you might find yourself without even these basics to work with. In such a case, the only thing you can count on is your knowledge.
Fortunately, knowledge is king, when it comes to survival. If you have the right knowledge, you’ll be able to procure, scrounge, harvest or create the equipment and supplies you’ll need. As a prepper, at an absolute minimum, you have the experience of having prepared at home. That provides valuable knowledge. Hopefully you’ve added other knowledge and skills to that.
Just like knowledge trumps gear, gear trumps supplies. If all you have are supplies, then once you run out of supplies, you’re in trouble. But with the right equipment, you are able to create or harvest more supplies. This isn’t to say that you should ignore stockpiling supplies to get gear, but rather than that, you shouldn’t ignore getting the right equipment in order to have a larger stockpile of supplies.
Don’t Forget Your Priorities
I don’t care what sort of disaster you are facing, the priorities for survival remain the same. In order to survive, you’re going to have to meet those basic priorities. If you don’t, your chances of survival are greatly decreased. Just to make sure we’re all on the same page, those priorities are:
- Maintaining your body heat
- Clean water
Secondary priorities are:
Keep in mind that it is harder to meet these survival priorities in the midst of a disaster, than it is any other time. While there may be water falling by the bucketful in a hurricane, it won’t be clean drinking water. It would be especially dangerous to scoop water up out of the street, as you won’t have any idea of what sort of contaminants it might have. Not only that, but you would get soaked to the skin getting that water, bringing the potential of hypothermia.
Evaluate Your Situation First
Before doing anything, you need to take stock of your situation. What kind of threat are you facing? How soon is the threat going to manifest, assuming it does? What’s the weather like, especially the temperature? Is there any way you can clear the area, before the threat occurs? Is there any way you can mitigate the impact of the threat on you, such as moving away from the shore? What do you have to work with? How much money do you have available to you?
Based upon the answers to those questions, you need to develop a plan for getting through the pending disaster. You obviously don’t have time to do a full-blown, detailed plan, but you need something to give you direction. Otherwise, you’re going to end up like all the other people out there, just running around grabbing what you can.
Your plan has to deal with the basic requirements of meeting the essential survival priorities. That means finding, procuring and preparing the necessary equipment and supplies to get through the disaster and its immediate aftermath.
You should also think a bit farther down the road, as to how you are going to flee the area, once the disaster has passed. However, your ability to plan for this will be limited, as you have no way of looking forward to see what the situation is going to be like. Roads and bridges might be damaged or destroyed and airports might be closed.
Shelter Has to Come First
Your number one priority is to maintain your body heat. Even a drop of a couple of degrees of core body temperature is extremely dangerous, leading to hypothermia and possibly death. With our potential scenario of a hurricane, the wind and rain will make it very hard to maintain your body heat if you don’t have shelter.
Shelter doesn’t have to be fancy, but it has to protect you from rain, wind and cold. It also has to be something that will ride out the storm. Seeking shelter in a vehicle and having that vehicle be swept away by flooding doesn’t do any good. Nor does getting a hotel room as shelter, if the storm breaks the window of your room, allowing the wind and rain to come inside.
We have to consider heat or at least fire, along with shelter. One of the key questions we asked above is about the weather, specifically the temperature. If the temperature is going to be 60 degrees, fire really isn’t an issue; you can survive without it. But the same can’t necessarily be said for 30 degrees and it definitely can’t be said for 10 degrees. If you have to provide yourself with heat, that might be the biggest survival challenge you face, while away from home.
Staying Dry is Key to Staying Warm
When it comes to prioritizing shelter, keeping dry is the number one priority. Your body will lose heat much quicker if it is wet, than if it is dry. Wet clothing provides no insulation and will usually cause your body to shed heat faster than if you were completely naked.
Remember, your body temperature is 98.6°F. That means that anytime the temperature is below that point, you are radiating heat. While you won’t radiate heat quickly at 70°F, if you have dry clothing on, you will if your clothing is wet. Even though 70°F seems like a reasonable temperature, the fact is, you can get hypothermia even then.
Water Purification is Better than Water Storage
Unless you have a huge water tank available to you, there is no way that you can practically stockpile enough water to get you through more than a few days. I live in a hurricane zone and every time there is a potential for a hurricane, the stores sell out of water. But a few cases of bottled water isn’t going to be enough to get anyone through. They’d be better off going to the local sporting goods store and buying a water filter, so that they can filter the water flowing down the street.
Yes, by all means, get some water bottles or better yet, gallons of water. Those gallon jugs will help you with filtering water to use, but don’t allow yourself to be fooled by a big stack of water bottles, it’s not going to be enough.
You Can Get by Without Food
Even though food is our number three survival priority, the reality is that you can live for quite a while without eating. For many of us, that might even be a good idea, allowing us to shed some unneeded pounds.
There is a lot of disagreement about how long you can live without food. Part of that is because it differs for each person. Some of us can live for longer than others, just because of the amount of energy we have stored in the fat cells in our bodies. Another factor is how we define surviving without food. If all we’re talking about is that our bodily functions remain active, we can go a whole lot longer than if we’re talking about being able to manage the physical activity necessary for wilderness survival.
But at a minimum, you should be able to survive for 30 days without food. Yes, your body will suffer for it and so will your energy level. But you’ll be alive and able to function. That’s what matters. So, if all you’re worried about is getting through a few days of a hurricane and maybe another week of trying to get out of town, food really isn’t a major priority. Your body may try to tell you that it’s dying of starvation, but it’s not.
Where Can You Get Supplies?
We’ve all seen the pictures of what a grocery store or Wal-Mart looks like when a disaster is bearing down on a community. People who aren’t prepared panic and run to the store to grab whatever they can, often the wrong things. This makes it hard for you and I to get the things we need, if we are caught in the same circumstances as they are.
One very important thing we need to realize is that those photos are taken of the aisles which empty out the fastest; water, bread, meat, dairy, things like that. Most people will buy the kinds of foods that their family is used to eating, not realizing that their purchases won’t survive when the power goes out.
But there will be a lot of food that gets overlooked, especially the types of non-perishable foods that you and I are accustomed to stockpiling; canned goods, rice and beans and other foods which will keep us alive, while their food is spoiling.
Another good place to look, which most people won’t even think of, is a restaurant supply. While much of their food will be frozen, they also carry packaged mixes for bread, cakes and a variety of other things. The packages will be much larger than you need, but if you have measuring cups available, you’ll still be able to cook the food.
Don’t forget the sporting goods store either. There’s a lot of camping gear that does double duty as survival gear as well. In addition, many sporting goods stores carry freeze-dried foods for backpacking, essentially the civilian version of military MREs. Sam’s Club also carries pre-packaged survival food in five-gallon buckets, which most people will overlook, as they run to fill their carts with food.
Don’t Overcomplicate Your Preparations
One of the biggest mistakes you can make in this sort of situation is to overcomplicate your preps. You don’t really need solar panels to survive a hurricane, even though it would be nice to be able to recharge your cell phone afterwards. Neither do you need to stockpile 1,000 rounds of ammunition. Don’t think about everything you could do to prepare yourself, think only about those things you have to do in order to be ready and stop there.
Within a day and with less than a couple of hundred dollars, you can actually do everything you need to, in order to prepare for that hurricane. No, it won’t be as comfortable as being back home, you won’t have everything you need to have in order to be comfortable. But you will have everything you need to have in order to survive and that’s the point of the exercise.